Festing, Feasting, & Investing --- Oh My!!
American preconception of Harbin is often that of a
backward city in the wilderness of northern China.
This erroneous perception seems to come from two
major sources. First, simple ignorance. American
business people tend to know more about southern
China, and are quick to accept the image as fact.
People never north of Beijing simply repeat
what they hear as gossip and flawed reporting. The
second factor is the bad-mouthing of those with
vested interests in other regions and other cities.
China is notorious for its regional competitiveness.
Since most of the Chinese representation in America
comes from southern China, and most American
businesses have developed their own interests in
southern China, there are self-serving efforts to
demean other regions. The American image of
northern China finds itself reflected in media reports
as well. Most recently, the Wall Street Journal did a
piece on Harbin that reflected the common myths -
not the realities.
The surprise about "Surprising Harbin" comes from
those who actually visit the city, and explore its
growth, opportunities and dynamics. Foremost,
people find a modern exciting city, sharing, and in
some instances leading, China's phenomenal
economic transformation. The opportunities in Harbin
may be greater than many of the better known, more
expensive, cities. This online feature is
named "Surprising Harbin" because that is how
almost everyone reacts when they visit for the first
time. Next time you negative hear talk about Harbin,
ask if the person has ever been there. It would be
rare for that person to say, "Yes."
Be confident that Harbin continues as a land of
exceptional investment and business opportunities.
Below are merely 5 of countless others.
1. Developers of a brand new 5-star hotel are
seeking a joint venture partner.
2. Backers needed for a Chicago theme restaurant.
3. Partner in a fertilizer production facility.
4. Real Estate developments - residential,
Contact HBE for more specifics.
This entire issue of our online newsletter is coming
from Harbin and devoted to our activities here. It is a
fabulous trip both personally and professionally.
Before we get into the professional side, let me
extend our thanks for a wonderful time provided to
me, Jill and our associate, Xiong Her. As it
happened, we were in Harbin for Jill and my 13th
wedding anniversary. This proved not to be an
unlucky number. We were hosted to several
anniversary celebrations, dinners and luncheons --
flooding our hotel room with more than 150 roses plus
many other flowers, each symbolizing different
things. In view of the increased amount of times we
will be spending in Harbin, Jill and I visited a number
of residential locations recommended by friends.
They ranged from a luxury apartment in Harbin's most
fashionable high-rise to an ornate historic 1938
Russian cottage on the shore of the Songhua River.
We are staying at the 5-star boutique Songhuajiang
Hotel on Flood Monument Plaza, directly across from
the Wanda Shopping Mall. We feel the daily energy
of Harbin in the tens of thousands of people who jam
the Plaza and Center Street shopping area to enjoy a
host of recreational activities. The sky is festooned
with hundreds of fabulous kites. Every visit outside
our hotel is like entering a grand carnival, with street
vendors, sidewalk artists and recreational games.
You can read more about this trip, and see the
photos, on the HBE website; www.harbex.org upon
our return next week. Looking forward to seeing you
soon - Larry Horist, President, HBE
HBE HONORED GUEST AT OFFICIAL OPENING OF WANDA MALL
HBE leaders, Larry and Jill Horist, and their associate,
Xiong Her, were invited to Harbin to participate in the
official opening ceremonies of the new Wanda
Shopping Mall in Harbin. The four building mall is the
largest in Harbin, and among the largest in China. It
is anchored by Wal-Mart, Parkson (China's leading
department store) and Warner Bros. (an 8-screen
cineplex). As the official representative, Larry was
seated in the front row, near Harbin Mayor Shi, for
the official ribbon-cutting. He and Jill then joined the
mayor as part of a small group touring the facilities.
While this was the official opening of the mall, Wal-
Mart and Warner Bros. actually began operations in
January. Sales at the Wal-Mart now exceed the
combined sales of the two other stores in Harbin, and
is among the most successful in China. In only a few
months, the Harbin Warner Bros. movie house is the
3rd highest grossing in all of China. It grosses more
than all theaters in Harbin combined. These
impressive statistics are due to the fact that the
Wanda Shopping Plaza is located in the most popular
location in the city. Known as the "golden"
or "diamond" district, it is the epicenter of civic,
business and tourist activities. Each year, millions of
people converge on the site.
FABULOUS CHINESE FEASTS MAKE US UNSUITABLE
True to the Chinese tradition, the HBE delegation
was honored with a continuing run of formal dinners
and luncheons. (The business attire we brought will
be replaced with stretch waist pants once at
home!) Among them was a remarkable dinner hosted
by former Mayor Wang ZhongZhang and Madame Xie
YingMei, head of the Harbin consultancy. It was a
very special meeting of old friends. Mayor Wang and
Larry Horist first conceived of the idea of the Harbin
Business Exchange after the Mayor's visit to Chicago
hosted by the Horists. Another feast, complete with
karaoke by top officials, was composed of the
dignitaries that visited Chicago in 2001. Leading
businesswoman, Mrs. SunyLan hosted that
banquet. A combined official luncheon and
anniversary celebration was arranged by Mr. Hu
YongChang, Director of the Harbin Economic
Cooperative Promotion Bureau. The Harbin
Development Zone officials Mr. Jie Ping and Ms. Ren
Wenxia had a holiday dinner (May Day) so easy to
enjoy. Most definitely not least, prominent real state
entrepreneur, Mrs. Wang GuiLan, owner of the
Songhuajiang Plaza Hotel hosted several meals,
provided guest suites to the HBE visitors with several
exquisite floral bouquets, a daily gift of fresh fruit, an
anniversary cake for the Horists and of course only
the finest cuisine from the hotel head chef - a
celebrity in his own right.
McCAIN MAKES $32 MILLION INVESTMENT IN HARBIN
The Harbin Development Zone dinner allowed for the
opportunity to introduce the HBE visitors to Mr. and
Mrs. Michael Whelton, of McCain Corporation. The
company recently announced plans to open a major
plant in China. McCain is the world's largest producer
of processed potato products, and services many of
the major fast food companies. The presence of
McCain is an indication of the optimistic outlook for
the future growth of the Harbin economy - especially
in the fast food area.
HOLLYWOOD THEME RESTAURANT PLANS ADVANCING
The joint venture between TJI International and
Brown's Chicken & Pasta has made great progress
this trip. Larry signed the Cooperative Intention
Agreement with the Wanda Group while in Harbin,
and provided the initial payment of $21,000 USD for
the establishment of a two-story, 500-seat food and
entertainment center to be constructed next to the
Warner Bros. Cineplex on Flood Monument Plaza. The
Hollywood theme restaurant will have panoramic
views of the scenic Songhua River park and
recreation area. During the visit, Larry, Jill and Xiong
met with several architectural firms to work with
their American architect, Michael Meissner. They
also interviewed an outstanding candidate for general
on-site management of the restaurant. He currently
manages one of the largest food courts in the city.
High government officials also introduced the Horists
to a very well established consultant on government
and legal affairs. He is a former judge and law
professor. The HBE leaders also visited a number of
vendors and supply chain operators.